Obsessive Compulsiveness (OCD) can wreck lives.
Obsessive Compulsive problems (OCD) stop you from being able to do simple tasks like leaving the house or making a choice over what to eat. You can do lots of seemingly odd behaviours like walking around in circles, checking things repeatedly, repeating phrases or counting until it feels right. These behaviours are called compulsions.
Your mind can obsess about stuff until the cows come home, leading you down rabbit holes from where it can be difficult to find your way back. OCD can steal your time and make you late for almost everything. OCD can wreck lives.
What does it look like to obsess over something?
Many people who obsess a lot talk about being responsible for preventing bad things from happening. Or they place too much importance on the meaning of their thoughts. It is far more than just being superstitious. The mind makes you anxious and gets locked into trying to eliminate the uncertainty.
When you obsess, you fixate on something in your mind, e.g. that you’ll cause harm or do something inappropriate. To act compulsively is to experience a strong urge to neutralise your thoughts, which you then act out. For example:
- To check something repeatedly
- To seek reassurance
- To go to extreme measures to prevent something bad from happening.
This might include washing your hands a lot, avoiding situations and making sure you don’t come into contact with aversive substances.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD is a label invented by psychiatry. Whilst there is no scientific test for OCD, obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviours can become a problem when you get caught up in it for large chunks of your day.
The term OCD can be thrown about rather easily by people, e.g. when people say, “I am a bit OCD.” In my experience, this can be frustrating to the OCD sufferer. It is as though the extent of their suffering is not fully understood. In reality, people who do have OCD suffer a great deal. You feel anxious for much of the time, and your life becomes limited.
With this type of anxiety, you cannot do many things that someone else often takes for granted, e.g. being able to hug your children, leaving your house easily, or using a public toilet. These actions can be very distressing as they stop people from doing what is important to them, i.e. being affectionate, independent and free.
Overt & Covert Compulsions
Many people with obsessive-compulsive tendencies adopt overt and covert compulsive behaviours. An overt compulsion is anything people can notice you doing, e.g. washing your hands. A covert compulsion is any mental action you take to alleviate your unwanted thoughts, e.g. counting, focusing on specific words, phrases or numbers, or silently reassuring yourself repeatedly.
Many people can learn to effectively manage their obsessive thoughts and compulsive responses by committing to CBT treatment. Usually, the treatment is for at least 12 sessions because changing requires commitment and repeated practice. This is true of all problem types, but in most cases, people with OCD have been suffering for years before they try to get help.
Are you ready for help?
It can be tricky figuring out if you are ready for help with your OCD. Here is a brief formula to help you decide. Rate each answer on a scale of 1-10 (1 being not at all and 10 being completely.)
Do you have the time? This is about whether you have enough time to focus on it or there are more pressing matters like sorting out where you live or getting a job.
Does it seem important? Can you imagine a life without OCD? Does it seem important to change the way you deal with intrusive thoughts? Does life seem like it would be more fun if you spent more time doing other things?
How confident do you feel to tackle it? This is about whether you think you have the skills that are needed to stop engaging in the compulsions.
Now, if you scored low on questions 1 and 2, it isn’t the right time to commit to it. Instead, work out what needs to change first and then work backwards. Put a plan together to get yourself ready.
If you scored high in questions 1 and 2 but low in 3…don’t worry. That’s ok. It is no wonder that you don’t feel confident enough. That is where we come in.
- OCD is a very distressing form of anxiety
- OCD involves battling unwanted or intrusive thoughts
- People can spend hours trying to neutralise their anxiety. These behaviours are called compulsions
- OCD is a label invented by psychiatry
- Compulsions can be mental as well as visible to others
- CBT & ACT Therapy is available when you are ready and willing